American Accused of Killing Italian Officer Says He Acted in Self-Protection

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ROME — A 21-year-old San Francisco man on trial within the demise of an Italian police officer instructed a court docket in Rome that he “panicked” and believed the officer, who he mentioned didn’t determine himself, would kill him.

The person, Finnegan Elder, spoke publicly for the primary time on Monday, to offer his model of the occasions that led to the demise of Deputy Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega, a 35-year-old, newly married officer within the Carabinieri, Italy’s nationwide army police power, in July 2019.

Clutching a number of handwritten sheets of paper, his hand trembling at instances, Mr. Elder mentioned he had been performing in self-defense when he repeatedly stabbed the person who had simply tackled him to the bottom and was making an attempt to restrain him.

“I bear in mind little of the subsequent few moments apart from emotions of shock and terror,” Mr. Elder mentioned. “I do bear in mind, nonetheless, that I may really feel his palms urgent on my chest after which on my neck with strain, as if he had been making an attempt to strangle or choke me. At this stage, I panicked and believed he needed to kill me. As quickly as I felt his palms squeezing my neck, I instinctively introduced out my knife and hit him thrice in an effort to get him off me.”

Panicked, he switched the hand with which he was holding the knife and stabbed him once more, he mentioned. “All this lasted just a few seconds,” he mentioned.

Mr. Elder was addressing the court docket in the course of the ultimate scheduled listening to of a yearlong trial that has grabbed headlines in Italy and the US, partially due to the younger age of these concerned.

Mr. Elder is on trial with Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, a San Francisco college pal he had joined for 2 days in Rome over the last leg of a summer time journey in Europe. On Monday, earlier than the listening to started, the 2 younger males sat facet by facet in a barred cell on the facet of the courtroom and chatted about their days in jail, fellow inmates and music.

Mr. Cerciello Rega’s demise capped a chaotic night that started when the 2 People determined to go to a stylish downtown Rome neighborhood to purchase cocaine.

“I believed that it will be one thing that will assist us benefit from the night time, and from previous expertise I believed the impact of the drug would make us really feel higher and provides us some power to stroll round to get to bars and pubs,” Mr. Elder instructed the court docket.

Issues didn’t go as deliberate. The drug deal fell via when a number of males — Carabinieri officers who the 2 People thought had been criminals — abruptly interrupted the transaction. Their cash gone, Mr. Elder stole a backpack belonging to the intermediary who had organized the sale.

Mr. Cerciello Rega died whereas making an attempt to retrieve the backpack together with his associate, Andrea Varriale, at a rendezvous close to the lodge the place the 2 People had been staying.

The backpack had included the intermediary’s cellphone and Mr. Natale Hjorth had been in a position negotiate with him for its return in alternate for cash and cocaine.

Mr. Elder mentioned he had introduced a knife with him to the rendezvous as a result of “it gave me a way of safety.”

Mr. Varriale testified in court docket final summer time that he and his associate had clearly recognized themselves as Carabinieri officers after they approached the 2 youthful males on the darkish road nook.

Mr. Elder mentioned Monday that the 2 plainclothes officers had not spoken. He mentioned that they had approached “as in the event that they needed to rob or damage us, with out saying a phrase, and with out displaying any I.D. or another object. They didn’t even say polizia, which sounds just like the English phrase police.”

He continued, “So far as I bear in mind I didn’t hear a single phrase, solely a mumbled cry of ache once I regretfully hit the person who I later discovered was a police officer.”

Mr. Elder mentioned that when he returned to the lodge after the altercation, he was sure that he had been attacked by a prison. It was solely after he had been arrested and interrogated that he discovered that he had killed an officer.

“I used to be shocked and confused” he mentioned, as a result of in America, cops “behave very in a different way. Officers announce themselves and draw their weapons if somebody refuses to determine themselves,” he mentioned. Neither officer was carrying a weapon that night time.

Mr. Elder spoke for simply over an hour, a “spontaneous declaration,” that within the Italian authorized system implies that there isn’t a examination or cross-examination. He briefly spoke in regards to the “fixed emotions” of hysteria, panic assaults, melancholy and grief with which he was struggling.

Subsequent Saturday, the prosecution will ship its ultimate arguments and ask for convictions. The presiding choose, Marina Finiti, instructed Mr. Elder earlier than he started that no matter he mentioned might be used in opposition to him in court docket.

“After listening to all these hearings, I understand it’s troublesome to consider an individual in my place, however what I’m telling you right this moment is the reality,” Mr. Elder mentioned.

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